Sipadan Island, Sabah, Malaysia : New 7 Wonders of Nature
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Sipadan is the only oceanic island in Malaysia, rising 600 metres (2,000 ft) from the seabed. It is located in the Celebes Sea east of the major town of Tawau and off the coast of East Malaysia on the Island of Borneo. It was formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct volcanic cone that took thousands of years to develop. Sipadan is located at the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin, the centre of one of the richest marine habitats in the world. More than 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species have been classified in this ecosystem.
Normally rare diving scenes are frequently seen in the waters around Sipadan: schools of green and hawksbill turtles nesting and mating, schools of barracuda and big-eye trevally in tornado-like formations, pelagic species such as manta rays, eagle rays, scalloped hammerhead sharks and whale sharks.
A mysterious turtle tomb lies underneath the column of the island, formed by an underwater limestone cave with a labyrinth of tunnels and chambers that contain many skeletal remains of turtles that have become lost and drown before finding the surface.
Diving at Sipadan
In year 2004, the Government of Malaysia ordered all on-site dive and resort operators of Sipadan to move their structures out of the island by 31 December 2004. This move is mainly to conserve a balanced ecosystem for Sipadan and its surrounding.
Diving will continue to be allowed in Sipadan for divers who are ferried in and out by dive and resort operators from the mainland and surrounding islands. However, tourists and keen divers should be warned that the number of permits available for Sipadan each day is limited to 120 spread between 12 resorts. A visit to Sipadan is not only not guaranteed for guests at the resort, regardless of the length of stay, but it is highly unlikely for those who stay less than a week or who want to snorkel rather than dive. Please keep this in mind to avoid disappointment.
If you are lucky enough to get to dive at Sipadan, you’ll experience world class diving, and maybe the most known diving spot is the Barracuda Point, where during the morning dive you’ll often encounter a very large school of Barracuda or Big Eye Trevallies. This is only one of many rare experiences you’ll have diving the reef off Sipadan island. There will be a lot of Green Turtle, Hawkbill Turtle and Whitetip reef shark and even the rare encounter of Hammerhead sharks.
In the past, the island was at the centre of a territorial dispute between Malaysia and Indonesia. The matter was brought for adjudication before the International Court of Justice and, at the end of 2002, the Court awarded the island along with the island of Ligitan to Malaysia, on the basis of the “effective occupation” displayed by the latter’s predecessor (Malaysia’s former colonial power, the United Kingdom) and the absence of any other superior title. The Philippines had applied to intervene in the proceedings on the basis of its claim to Northern Borneo, but its request was turned down by the Court early in 2001.
On April 23, 2000, 21 people were kidnapped by the Filipino terrorist group Abu Sayyaf. The armed terrorists arrived by boat and forced 10 tourists and 11 resort workers at gun point to board the vessels and brought the victims to Mindanao. All victims were eventually released.
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